ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Democrats and Republicans are at odds on how to keep the peace during any unrest that crops up during the trial of ex-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in March -- and so they are negotiating behind closed doors.
According to several legislative spokespeople, leaders planned to discuss a plan on the evening of Monday, Feb. 8. Spokespeople could not offer details on what negotiations were on the table, or specifically what lawmakers would be in attendance.
The meeting -- away from the eyes of the public and news media, unlike regular legislative hearings -- comes after a week of public brawling over Democrats’ and Republicans' respective proposals. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz on Feb. 3 introduced his plan, a $35 million fund to go toward mutual aid costs accrued when local police departments need backup during violent civil unrest, like the Twin Cities needed last summer following the death of George Floyd.
Senate Republicans decried Walz’s plan as a “bailout” for the Twin Cities, and instead proposed that such mutual aid costs be pulled from the Cities’ local government aid, or LGA. LGA, provided to local governments by the state, is meant to go toward municipal public safety costs like local police and fire departments, among other things.
“I don’t want to give a dime to the city of Minneapolis, the city council there that wants to defund the police,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said at an event last week.
At a Monday morning House committee hearing, state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, signaled that there is a disconnect between Republicans in the House versus the Senate on the issue. On Senate Republicans’ proposal to pull the money from Minneapolis’s LGA, Garofalo said, “I don’t think that was responsible.”
“That (Senate plan) certainly doesn’t speak to my opinion and I don’t think it speaks to the majority of House Republicans, either,” he said.
“This is not only going to be a local event. These trials are going to be international,” he continued. “Our state has experienced enough brand damage from the events over the last year. The least we can do is make sure we have these resources in place to make sure we keep the peace.”
Garofalo also said during Monday morning's Ways and Means Committee hearing that "there’s some leadership conversations happening later tonight (Monday)." The committee did not take action on the bill, and instead Rep. Rena Moran, D-St. Paul, who chairs the committee, said she hoped legislators "can do a little more work offline and bring this back to the committee soon."
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, has indicated that the Democratic-controlled House has the votes to pass Walz’s plan, though they still want to build a bipartisan coalition. Even if the House passes it, though, the bill needs the Republican-controlled Senate’s final stamp of approval before reaching Walz’s desk.